The Renaissance in Inventory Sampling

An inventory is essential for correct accounting and balancing. But it could be easier than that. Automated warehouse processes make the once-difficult random sample inventory appealing again. But there is another convincing argument to promote digitisation in the company.

Traditionally, most companies traditionally have to take stock of their assets at the end of the year by inventory. Although this serves the purpose of monitoring the company and its accounts and also provides a certain degree of protection for creditors, it is not very popular, based on the expense involved. This is why it is a positive that s. 241 German Commercial Code (HGB) has a “simplified inventory procedure”. Since 1977 it is possible to carry out inventory sampling, which allows the inventory of assets to be determined by sampling alone. With increased automation and digitisation this is of importance again.

Proper bookkeeping as a prerequisite

"Identification of goods, real-time monitoring, automated booking and controls as well as a continuous digitalisation of the material flows, as already possible with Industry 4.0 and SCM 4.0, allows error-free inventory management," says Martin Rosenbaum, Senior Manager at Kerkhoff Consulting, a management consultancy firm for supply chain management based in Düsseldorf. "This creates the prerequisites for inventory sampling." s. 241 sentence 1 HGB requires that the proper bookkeeping principles are complied with, i.e. completeness, correctness and verifiability. This can be achieved by a warehouse management system with integrated inventory management. "The reliability of inventory management also influences the ability to deliver along with the service level. These are decisive competitive factors in today's world", Rosenbaum states expressly highlighting such advantages of a continuous digitisation.

Inventory samling

With inventory sampling, a representative quantity of the total is registered and then extrapolated to the total stock. It is permissible, for example, to take up only 3 to 5% of the most valuable storage elements in order to determine 45 to 50% of the total value based on this small, but significant, share of assets. Combinations of different inventory procedures are also possible. For example, higher-value items are subjected to a full inventory, while lower-value goods are subjected to random sampling. In this case, the "extrapolation" must be software-supported using recognised mathematical-statistical methods.

Accounting discipline is required

"The advantage is clear: only a fraction of the cost of a full annual inventory needs to be invested," says expert Rosenbaum. “Unfortunately, the accounting discipline and control required is often not available in many companies.” Where negative stocks are permitted in the accounting systems, the necessary stock security cannot be achieved. Rosenbaum thus suggests, "this is where companies urgently need to start".

Model for automated warehouses

The random sample inventory is particularly suitable if counting, measuring and weighing for a full inventory is difficult. For example, with automatic high-bay warehouses. The HGB model of the 1970s is more up-to-date than ever, even after 40 years.

About the author: Anja Falkenstein works as a lawyer in Karlsruhe and writes on issues regarding logistics and law.

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